Our reactions to the world around us can vary pretty significantly over time. We have already discussed some of the factors that influence if we perceive or pay attention to something. How much we react, or how "big" our reactions are to what we do pay attention to also depends on several different factors.

Parrots tend to show bigger reactions to things that are:

  • Unpredictable, new or sudden

  • Moving fast

  • In close proximity to them

For a bird that isn't used to hands, seeing a hand within 2m (6ft) moving slowly towards it might be enough for it to fly away. A bird that is very used to hands and readily steps up probably wouldn't even flinch in this scenario, but it might still react to hands that are moving very fast and are very close, especially if it happens suddenly.

When something happens suddenly, it's generally better to react hard
and fast first, and ask questions later. If you don't, chances are you won't be around much longer. 


It's common to think that a parrot "reacts out of nowhere" when we are on the receiving end of a bite that we didn't see coming, or when a bird suddenly screams and flies away from something we think is ordinary. In these cases it's important to remember that we judge the intensity of what is happening based on how big the reaction to it is, not the other way around. If we can observe a big reaction, that means what induced it was a big event to that individual at that time. Our instinct is often to think: "wow, that was a big reaction for nothing, that totally wasn't warranted."
We want to replace that with:"wow, that was a big reaction! For this bird, that must have been a big thing right now."

This is one of the reasons why it's incredibly important to move slowly and predictably when interacting with parrots. By giving them time to notice and respond to what is happening, we also enable ourselves to observe and gather information. How the parrot is responding to what we're doing is information that helps us determine what we do next. More on that in part 5.

It's been a rough day 

Ever had one of those days where you just snap at seemingly innocent things that you normally wouldn't care about?

Yeah, parrots have those, too. In fact, many animals do! In the animal training world we sometimes call this "trigger stacking." It's a way of saying that experiences add up when they happen close to one another. (Both in time and space.) As a vet nurse that often has to deal with stressed and injured animals, this is a phenomena I'm very familiar with! Many people think their otherwise friendly pet would never bite, but when we are in pain or in an environment where a lot is happening at once, we all might do things we otherwise wouldn't. 

On it's own, neither an approaching hand, being in a new environment or hearing a sudden noise might be enough to tip the scales.

But if these things happen all at once, or closely together in time, they can add up. And suddenly that every day thing is a big deal